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The Man Who Shot Reagan Has Been Granted Full Freedom

Photo: Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images

John Hinckley, the would-be assassin who shot President Ronald Reagan two months after his inauguration in 1981, was deemed by a federal judge on Wednesday to no longer be a “danger to himself or others.” As a result, he will be free of all remaining restrictions by June 15.

“He’s been scrutinized, he’s passed every test,” said U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman at a hearing that Hinckley did not attend. At the hearing, Friedman confirmed his ruling last September that the 67-year-old could be unconditionally released by June if he maintained his good behavior in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he has been living since 2016. Restrictions included allowing law enforcement access to his electronic devices and email, a prohibition from being in the same vicinity of anyone protected by the Secret Service, and a three-day notice before traveling more than 75 miles from his house.

On March 30, 1981, Hinckley indirectly shot Reagan with a revolver outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., when a bullet ricocheted off the presidential limo and punctured Reagan’s lung. A police officer, a Secret Service agent, and press secretary James Brady were also wounded. (Brady, who was partially paralyzed in the attack, later became an advocate for gun control; the 1994 law mandating federal background checks on firearm purchases was named after him.) In 1983, Hinckley was found not guilty of attempting to assassinate the president by reason of insanity and was confined to a psychiatric hospital for the next 32 years. At the time of the shooting, Hinckley, the son of a Denver oil executive, believed that killing the president would impress teenage actress Jodie Foster.

Judge Friedman determined that Hinckley no longer displays symptoms of mental illness or violent behavior. “If he hadn’t tried to kill the president, he would have been unconditionally released a long, long, long time ago,” he said in September.

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The Man Who Shot Reagan Has Been Granted Full Freedom